RACHMANINOV; PROKOFIEV Cello Sonatas
No sooner had I commented on the unusual Prokofiev/Rachmaninov coupling in my Moser/Korobeinikov review (in the February issue) than this one arrived from Nina Kotova and Fabio Bidini. They place Rachmaninov first and from the off this is a reading with a clear sense of direction, well paced and technically adroit. What it doesn’t have is the personality of the best, be they Alisa Weilerstein (Decca, 11/15) or Steven Isserlis. Take the very opening of the sonata: Kotova plays with sensitivity, but Weilerstein seems to be moulding the music from the very air itself. Or the scherzo second movement, which in Isserlis’s hands has the perfect balance of skittishness and, when the big tune arrives, heartbreaking yearning, Hough the ideal partner here. By comparison Kotova and Bidini are just a little plain. And the latter makes notably heavier weather of the finale’s piano part than Hough.
Kotova nails the tuning in the opening to the Prokofiev, however (a concern with the otherwise fine Moser reading). But again, though the playing is assured, it isn’t all that characterful. There’s far less sense of the different sound worlds of Rachmaninov and Prokofiev than there is in Moser/Korobeinikov – just sample the way Kotova presents the theme that emerges from the pizzicato in the first movement, which is given more edginess by Moser. In the second movement, Korobeinkov sets off with a subversive glint in his eye, a mood gleefully taken up by Moser, whereas Bidini and Kotova are altogether more elegant. In the finale, Kotova is, like Daniel Müller-Schott (Orfeo), relatively steady, tempo-wise, but the latter reveals a whole world of colour. By way of filler we get two borrowings from Tchaikovsky’s piano music; the Op 51 Romance is merely pretty, while the ravishing Méditation from Op 72 is no more than conventionally rapturous.